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Underwater Housecleaning

If you thought it was a challenge to hoover the house, imagine cleaning the bottom of a penguin enclosure! You’ll need a water vacuum, breathing apparatus and something to keep nosey penguins out of your way.

But it’s not just for spring cleaning, the team at Living Coasts, this hoover is used to remove sand used by the penguins, and gather it up to be used for artificial beaches around the Zoo. Spokesperson, Philip Knowling talked about the device.

‘Our system was devised using Sedi-filters, which are normally used by people like the Environment Agency to clear silt from watercourses and rebuild riverbanks. A portable submersible pump with an extendable hose draws sand and water into a large bag that lies on the Living Coasts decking like a beached whale. The sand is caught in the Sedi-filter bag, but the water drains out. Because it is under pressure, it spurts out in tiny fountains.’

Water services tech, Derek Youd, said, ‘Sand is washed from Penguin Beach during heavy rainfall or comes off the penguins as they clean themselves in the water. This settles at the bottom of the tank. Few other exhibits use just sand, but it is best for the birds that we have a sandy beach, it is as close to their natural habitat as we can get, so this is what we have.’

Some well deserved credit is owed to the volunteers of the Zoo. ‘They sew up the bags by hand, so we can reuse them. The Sedi-filter bags are designed to be filled with silt once and then left on riverbanks like giant sandbags to build them up, as the bag material is fully biodegradable. We want to get the sand out and put it back on the beach, so we have to cut the bags open and sew them back up to reuse them. We can’t put in a zip because the pressure might burst it. The sewing volunteers put in tremendous effort!’

The device has removed around 32 tonnes of sand in 2017 alone! It is a greatly helpful device, according to Derek. ‘The sand clogs up our water filtration system – it’s a unique problem that needed a unique solution. We also needed something that could be used near the penguins without disturbing them. The pump is very quiet and efficient, and they don’t get fussed at all!’

For more information on Living Coasts, click HERE.

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Torquay, Devon

Indoor and outdoor exhibits showing off various marine life. You can get within touching distance of penguins, enjoy the seal feeding display, and learn abou...

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